5th Sunday of Easter – Year B

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes
to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away
– he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

John 15:1-8

Jesus declares to his friends ‘I am the true vine’, a metaphor of great significance, not only to his disciples, but to us today. Cut off from Jesus, we are barren, we will not bear fruit, but if our lives are connected to him we will ‘have life, and have it abundantly’ (Jn 10:10).

In the time of Jesus, the people were well familiar with the image of the ‘vine’, for it adorned the facade of the Temple as a symbol of the peoples of Israel. It was also used as a metaphor in the Hebrew Scriptures ‘Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit’ (Hos 10:1).

By choosing this metaphor, Jesus also alludes to the concern of Jeremiah; ‘I planted you as a choice vine from the purest stock. How then then did you degenerate and become a wild vine?’ (Jer 2:21). Jesus declares that he, not the people, is the vine. ‘I am the vine, you are the branches’.

Central to his discourse is that the Father is the vinedresser, evoking an image of one who tends to the branches with attention and tenderness so that they ‘bear fruits in plenty’. The vinedresser desires that all branches will bear fruit and he prunes each one ‘so that it will bear even more’.

It is only when the branches are cut off from the vine that they wither and die.  Jesus does not want us to be cut off from him. On the contrary, he implores both his disciples and us, ‘make your home in me as I make mine in you’.

Anthony Cleary
Director, Mission and Identity